Although abnormally folded tau protein has been found to self-propagate from neuron to connected neuron, similar propagation through human brain networks has not been fully documented. We studied tau propagation in the left hemispheric syntactic network, which comprises an anterior frontal node and a posterior temporal node connected by the white matter of the left arcuate fasciculus. This network is affected in the nonfluent variant of primary progressive aphasia, a neurodegenerative disorder with tau accumulation. Methods: Eight patients with the nonfluent variant of primary progressive aphasia (age, 67.0 ± 7.4 y; 4 women) and 8 healthy controls (age, 69.6 ± 7.0 y; 4 women) were scanned with 18F-AV-1451 tau PET to determine tau deposition in the brain and with MRI to determine the fractional anisotropy of the arcuate fasciculus. Normal syntactic network characteristics were confirmed with structural MRI diffusion imaging in our healthy controls and with blood oxygenation level-dependent functional imaging in 35 healthy participants from the Alzheimer Disease Neuroimaging Initiative database. Results: Language scores in patients indicated dysfunction of the anterior node. 18F-AV-1451 deposition was greatest in the 2 nodes of the syntactic network. The left arcuate fasciculus had decreased fractional anisotropy, particularly near the anterior node. Normal MRI structural connectivity from an area similar to the one containing tau in the anterior frontal node projected to an area similar to the one containing tau in the patients in the posterior temporal node. Conclusion: Tau accumulation likely started in the more affected anterior node and, at the disease stage at which we studied these patients, appeared as well in the brain region (in the temporal lobe) spatially separate from but most connected with it. The arcuate fasciculus, connecting both of them, was most severely affected anteriorly, as would correspond to a loss of axons from the anterior node. These findings are suggestive of tau propagation from node to connected node in a natural human brain network and support the idea that neurons that wire together die together.
- Alzheimer dementia
- Primary progressive aphasia
- Prion propagation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging